Tenants of the Gladstone Court Apartments are making demands for safe, affordable housing of the building’s new owner after the company nearly tripled the rent with 30 days notice.
Last week, KC Tenants, a city-wide tenant union, held a solidarity rally in support of the tenants at an apartment complex on North Lawn Avenue in the Historic Northeast.
In January, their utilities were shut off over a weekend following a fire in the basement, leaving them without heat or electricity. They were eventually turned back on after inspections were completed and pressure from the union. However, poor living conditions have persisted for years.
FTW Investments, the owner of the property at the time, sold it to a new ownership entity, Wiser LLC, based in New Jersey.
“The property is now managed by Rubicon Realty, based in Arizona,” according to a press release from KC Tenants. “As of two weeks ago, the new owner sent notices to tenants at the property, informing them that their leases will not be renewed. Tenants in the building, all of whom are immigrants or refugees, do not have anywhere else to go.”
They were offered new lease agreements at nearly triple the current rent, going from $300 or $400 to $1,100. Tenants have said they won’t go when their leases are up later this month. They’re also asking for their appliances, broken windows and apartments to be repaired.
On March 10, just a few days before their leases are set to expire, the tenants of Gladstone Court Apartments sent a letter to Eli Rosenblatt of Wiser KC LLC.
“We are a community,” they wrote. “Many of us have lived here for years. Our kids go to school at Gladstone Elementary, just across the street. Some of us are elderly, others are sick, and our homes provide vital security for us. Most of our neighbors are Burmese refugees or Mexican immigrants. We take care of each other’s kids, translate for our neighbors, share information and resources. Here at North Lawn, we look out for one another.”
In one of the apartments, they have created a place of worship, and they often gather to sell handmade goods or food in the courtyard in the summer, tenants shared.
“You recently purchased our homes from FTW Investments,” the letter read. “We also know that you may not have been familiar with our community or the state of the property before you made the purchase. Nonetheless, the property is now in your hands, and you are responsible for the place we call home.”
As of February 15, via Rubicon Realty, the property management company the new owner hired, tenants have all received notices to leave our homes within the month.
“We won’t go,” they wrote. “We won’t go, and we are organizing with our neighbors, community members, the City, and the County to ensure that we won’t have to.”
The North Lawn Tenants demand that Wiser KC immediately withdraw all 30-day notices to quit; provide lease renewals, for a term of one year, at each tenant’s current rate; fix the dangerous and unsafe conditions in their homes, including, but not limited to, ceiling collapses, mold, pest infestations; guarantee accommodations at the same property, at their current rental rates, if relocation is necessary to fix the building; repair or replace all of their broken appliances; and reinstate mail service.
“We expect your prompt and dutiful compliance with our demands,” they wrote. “We have lived in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for far too long. The failure to keep our homes in safe and healthy condition violates both local and state law. Until our homes are brought up to code, you remain in violation of our tenant and consumer rights. You are required to fix these wrongs and ensure that our homes are in safe and habitable condition.”
If the new owner does not meet their demands and refuses to steward this property in a way that respects the fact that these are their homes, their will call on the City to either take ownership of the property or transfer it to a local steward.
“Every household at North Lawn has come together, and we are supported by KC Tenants, the citywide tenant union,” the letter concluded. “We plan to fight for our homes. We are stronger than ever. We won’t go.”